To that end, Boeing has this morning announced the intention to invest £20 million building a production facility in Sheffield that from 2018 is intended to begin producing important trailing edge wing actuation components that are used on a range of its commercial aircraft.
The Sheffield UK investment is part of a wider plan by Boeing to begin in-house production of key actuation components and systems that are currently produced externally and bought-in. The intention is clear – that of enhancing production efficiency and of reducing costs in the supply chain.
While Boeing has large scale investment across Europe in order to support the many airline and military customers that it has and also, a large number of European based suppliers, the ‘Boeing Sheffield’ facility will be the Chicago based company’s first ever manufacturing operation in Europe. Likely to initially employ around 30 skilled workers when it opens some- time next year, the facility will be linked to the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, a world-class machining and materials research campus that was founded in 2001 by Boeing and the University of Sheffield and which has already provided huge benefits to all concerned.
Having agreed a long term prosperity and growth commitment with the UK Government last July, the Sheffield manufacturing plant is the first example of what the plan is designed to achieve. Last year Boeing received a large order from the UK Government covering purchase of nine of its P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft. That deal includes a £100 million investment in maintenance, training and logistics facilities that will be built at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and that, according to RUSI, will sustain around 2,000 jobs here in the UK. Boeing also received confirmation of intention by the MOD to acquire a fleet of 50 of its latest generation Apache attack helicopters for the British Army worth approximately $2.3 billion.
Boeing already employs more than 2,000 people in the UK across various sites from Glasgow to Gosport supporting commercial aircraft in service with airlines such as British Airways, Ryanair and others and military aircraft that include the existing fleet of Apache attack helicopters and the sixty CH-47 Chinook helicopters now in service with the UK military. Other Boeing built military aircraft in service with the Royal Air Force include the fleet of six Sentry E-3D airborne surveillance command and control aircraft operated by 8 Squadron out of RAF Waddington.
While what has been announced today by Boeing is in terms of numbers of manufacturing jobs relatively small it is nevertheless hugely important. It is a start in what I hope over time may be other manufacturing related investments in the UK and that together with research based and customer support related jobs will allow Boeing carry out its already made commitment to double the number of UK employees to 4,000 over the next few years. Having doubled the number of UK employees to 2,000 over a relatively short time and supporting around 12,700 jobs in the UK overall, it should not be forgotten that Boeing is already spending £1.8 billion annually in the UK aerospace industry. Given the announcement today and the already made commitment to invest a lot more in the UK, I guess it won’t before that £1.8 billion figure has doubled and maybe trebled as well.
CHW (London 24th February 2017)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785